Generally speaking I favour colour photography. There’s a large amount of beautiful colour information in the mountains I like to capture. I get pleasure however from converting to black and white and reflecting on the difference. There’s something which is sensuous but restrained, powerful but elegant, in a good monochrome shot.

Not too long ago colour photography was not yet accepted. The medium was invented as black and white and continued as such for decades. It’s a peculiar abstraction when you think about it – unnatural and not trying to be accurate – but one which we understand immediately.

Notice how I cropped this slightly compared to the colour version. It worked as the same frame, but I wanted to concentrate and simplify the image which I think works better. I did the same with my 2013 Pyrenees shot of Balaitous, and photographs from Scotland around two years ago of Ben Lui and Beinn Alligin.

Another point to mention is how we live a sea of photographic images. Most of them are colour whether on your phone, camera, web site, computer, or occasional print. As such, good black and white photography is increasingly distinct in relation to the wider medium.

I may write more about the specific aesthetics and psychology of black and white in relation to the mountains. Here’s a start. Shibui (渋い) (adjective), shibumi (渋み) (noun), or shibusa (渋さ) (noun) are Japanese words which refer to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetic terms, such as iki and wabi-sabi, shibui can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion.


Pyrenees Mountain View: Towards Ordesa

Friday January 17, 2014